Environmental Toxins and Detoxification
All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy. Paracelsus, 16th Century.
Before we begin discussing how to get rid of environmental toxins, we should discuss a few key terms and a general understanding about toxins. The “detox” word is thrown around very loosely in today’s media, and I want to be more specific about exactly what we are trying to eliminate from our bodies. This article is not intended to inform you about a “detox diet” or “bowel cleanse.” This article will teach you:
- What are toxins?
- Why should I worry about them?
- How do toxins get in me?
- How do I get rid of them?
First of all, what are toxins?
In this article, we will mainly reference toxins as external chemicals that enter our body and cause symptoms. Bear in mind that our own body produces toxins every second of the day. It is why we urinate, stool, breathe, and sweat. For instance, CO2 is a toxin to the body, and it is the primarily expelled when breathing out. We will not be focusing on our own toxins. Instead, we will mainly be focusing on non-human toxins.
What is an Environmental Toxin?
There are several different types of toxins. One type is called a xenobiotic which is a chemical compound that is foreign to or not normally produced by the body. There is also Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP). These substances persist in the environment and accumulate through the food chain. They pose a risk of adverse effects to the human and environment. There are also heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, and many more. Heavy metals are addressed separately since they are treated with Chelation Therapy.
Why are Environmental Toxins dangerous?
Most scientists and physicians today operate on the No Observable Effect Level (NOEL) hypothesis. This means a toxin doesn’t matter as long as symptoms do not occur when a human is exposed to the toxin. These studies are generally short-term observations. They also assume that all humans have the same sensitivity, metabolism, and elimination. It also ignores windows of opportunity: puberty, pregnancy, menstruation. Most importantly, it does NOT take into account the presence of other toxins.
For instance, you have probably heard of mesothelioma from class action lawsuit commercials. Mesothelioma is a deadly lung cancer. You may have been lead to believe that asbestos is the only cause of mesothelioma. Not true. The risk of developing lung cancer if you are exposed to asbestos is 5 times the normal population. If someone is a cigarette smoker, they are 10 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Surprisingly, if you are a cigarette smoker exposed to asbestos, your risk of lung cancer is 55 times the normal population. This shows how it is not what 1 toxin does to a human being because toxins work together (synergistically) and multiply their effects.
Toxic Substances Control Act (1976): Grandfathered 65,000 chemicals already being used without any further testing. There is no basic toxicology information available for 43% of high production chemicals. Full toxicology information is available publicly for 7% of these chemicals. Chemicals, much like criminals, are generally regarded as safe unless proven otherwise.
Meanwhile, pharmaceutical drugs are assumed to be toxic, and they must be proven safe with clinical trials before they can be marketed.
This seems backwards, yet it is the current truth.
How do toxins interfere with my health?
Toxins are insidious. Toxin’s negative effects creep up slowly, and most people blame it on their age. Toxins accumulate over time as the body lacks the ability to eliminate them. In part, your age does matter, the older you are, the more toxins that you have built up. However, you do not need to “feel your age.” Toxins cause a myriad of problems, including: Hormone imbalance, Inflammation, Weight Gain, Brain fog, and much more.
Hormone Imbalance – You have probably heard of the onslaught of hormone problems in the United States. Many men complain of low testosterone, women have PCOS (PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome), and most adults suffer from adrenal fatigue. Toxins are endocrine disruptors, and they mimic human hormones.
Inflammation – Toxins alert the body that something is wrong. Your immune system responds to this alert signal by attacking randomly. This begins to cause inflammation in various parts of the body. Inflammation can lead to joint pain, weight gain, heart attacks, and auto-immune diseases (Hashimoto’s Disease, Lupus, Psoriasis).
Weight Gain / Obesogens – Toxins can be stored in fat tissue, so the body creates fat tissue in order to dilute the toxins. “The solution to pollution is dilution.” Have you ever lost weight and felt horrible afterwards? One reason for feeling worse is that you have mobilized hidden toxins.
Brain fog – Toxins can cross through the blood-brain barrier and begin affecting nerve cell function. Neurons are delicate; toxins easily disturb their electrical communication pathways.
Where do environmental toxins come from?
Everywhere. Anywhere. Foods, plastics, industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food preparation byproducts, and personal care products. I will discuss a few of these sources in detail.
Food is one of the major sources of toxin exposure because it directly enters our body. Non-organic foods are sprayed with pesticides / herbicides that infuse into it. When plants are grown without adequate “threats” from weeds / pests, they do not produce as much of their beneficial antioxidants. This means that non-organic foods have less benefit and more toxins – a double insult. It is too much to discuss Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in this article.
Meat – Most non-humane animals being farmed are given hormones, antibiotics, and they live in filth. They are fed foods that are unnatural to them and lack adequate detoxification themselves. These toxins infuse into their tissues, and humans consume them with their toxins. You can watch the documentaries “Forks Over Knives” and “Fed Up” on Netflix to learn more.
Dairy – Animals (including humans) detoxify while breastfeeding. Breastmilk is heavy in fats and toxins are typically attracted to fats. I am not suggesting that breastfeeding is dangerous, but I will extrapolate that fact to conclude that consuming another animal’s breastmilk (Read: Cow’s Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, Ice cream) means that you are consuming their toxins. The more toxic environment the animal lives in, the more toxic the milk source.
Plastics – Plastics are involved in our every day life. We drink liquids from plastic bottles through plastic straws. We keep our food in plastic containers. We put our organic produce into plastic bags. We eat processed foods from plastic containers. We eat on-the-go-foods with plastic utensils. We give plastic toys to our children, and they chew on them. Needless to say, we are exposed to plastic every day. Plastic is known to contain chemicals that disrupt our hormone balance. The one chemical that has gotten the most media attention is BPA or Bisphenol A. BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, and it is extremely similar to Diethylstilbestrol (DES) which was proven to cause a myriad of problems (cancer, birth defects, etc). DES was used to fatten livestock until 1977. BPA is not as potent as DES, so it has been used innocently in commercial plasticizers since 1957. Now, 8 billion pounds of BPA are used every year. BPA can be found in metal food cans, dental sealants, CDs, electrical insulators, paper receipts. BPA leaches out of plastic over time, and heating speeds up the process.
Phthalates – Phthalates are another form of plasticizer. They are used to soften plastics. They can be found in enteric coated pills, low-quality supplements, anti-perspirants, and perfumes.
Other sources of common environmental exposures are pumping gas, travelling on airplanes (exposure to jet exhaust), smoking (Cigarettes, Marijuana, Hookah), and alcohol.
I could go on further but suffice it to say that books could and are being written about environmental toxins.
How do I know if I have Environmental Toxins in my body?
There are multiple ways to determine if you have environmental toxins wandering in your system. You can take surveys that go through your exposure history. You can discuss your toxin history with a knowledgeable functional medicine practitioner. You may know that you have toxin accumulation based on symptoms, hormonal imbalances, weight gain, or other symptoms.
The best method to do determine toxin levels is to do comprehensive lab testing which can assess for the common chemicals (phthalates, benzene, pesticides, parabens, etc). This testing is generally not covered by insurance companies.
What if I feel fine yet my Environmental Toxin levels are high?
We would encourage you to clean your environment by eating organic foods, drinking filtered water, limiting pesticides, exercising regularly, optimize vitamin levels, and improve detoxification pathways. You do not necessarily need an aggressive detoxification plan if you do not have any symptoms.
What does our Environmental Detoxification plan entail?
Our environmental detoxification plans includes a comprehensive treatment plan that optimizes your detoxification pathways and teaches you to limit your exposure to new toxins.
Optimizing Detoxification Pathways: We optimize your detoxification pathways utilizing multiple herbs and supplements that improve clearance of toxins. We provide you with a food plan that fits you, your lifestyle, your genetics, and your lab values. We also focus on increasing your body’s level of glutathione, your most powerful antioxidant. We do this through supplements and intravenous infusions. We will assess your current elimination pathways (stool, urine, breathing, and sweating). We will improve any elimination pathways that are deficient. For example, we may need to improve bowel transit time, increase water consumption, and restore lung function. You will be encouraged to utilize sweat therapy via sauna therapy, exercise, or bikram yoga.
Limiting New Toxin Exposure: First, we will help you determine current sources of toxin exposure. Then, we will counsel you on alternatives to these toxins. We will help you identify the easiest and most cost-effective ways to limit the toxins entering your body.
Read more about Reducing Toxicity and Chemical Exposures.
Is Environmental Detoxification therapy dangerous?
Environmental detoxification should be regarded as safe. Mostly, we will be using whole foods, herbs, and supplements to remove toxins. Many patients feel worse when mobilizing toxins. The side effects of mobilized toxins are usually brief as they are quickly eliminated by the body.
Unfortunately, it is always possible to have an allergic or unexpected reaction to one of the products used.
Environmental detoxification is considered safer than Chelation Therapy.
Can I begin a Detoxification Program on my own?
Yes, you can begin your own detoxification planning by eating colorful fruits and vegetables. Lots of vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables!
We plan to add more details to this section in the future.